Alleged $793,800 Bribe: NJC Insists Court Judges’ Estacode Paid in Naira

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By Akinwale Akintunde

The National Judicial Council (NJC) has told an Ikeja High Court that judicial officers received other allowances besides salaries and that estacodes were paid in Naira and not in foreign currencies.

An official of the NJC, Ramatu Hassan Ahmed, who is the 13th prosecution witness in the going trial of Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia and a former EFCC prosecutor, Mr. Godwin Obla (SAN) disclosed this yesterday, at the resumed trial of the case before Justice Hakeem Oshodi.

The duo are standing trial on a 30-count charge bordering on perversion of the course of justice, graft, unlawful enrichment, providing false information to the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) and forgery.

The EFCC had alleged that about $793,800 passed through the judge’s domiciliary accounts between 2012 and 2015. The judge allegedly used the money to buy a house in London.

In the charge, the anti-graft agency insisted that the defendants also allegedly committed an offence on May 24, 2015, when they conspired to pervert the course of justice with the sum of N5 million.

The said sum, according to the EFCC, was reported to have been transferred to one Nigel & Colive Limited.

The commission maintained that Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was the sole signatory to Nigel & Colive, adding that both defendants conspired to pervert the course of justice, in contravention of the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011.

The EFCC alleged that the N5 million paid by Obla, through his company’s account, was to restrain a public officer from acting in exercise of her official duties.

Justice Ofili-Ajumogobia was equally alleged to have made a false statement to the EFCC that she was on admission at one Gold Cross Hospital at Bourdillon Road, Ikoyi in Lagos, which statement was later found to be false.

The anti-graft agency insisted that the offences were contrary to the provisions of the Criminal Laws of Lagos State, 2011, as well as the EFCC (Establishment) Act, 2004.

The two defendants had pleaded not guilty.

At yesterday’s proceeding, Ahmed, who was subpoened by the EFCC enumerated the role of judicial officers as found in the code of conduct for judicial officers.

The witness told the court that though judges receives allowances such as estacodes other than salaries, such allowances were disbursed through the individual courts.

Alluding to relevant section of the handbook, she said, paragraph 8.5 of the handbook stated that it is wrong for a judge to use his position for personal advantage, neither can a judge use his/her position to contact any colleague with a view to influencing the outcome of a case.

She earlier referred to paragraph 2.5 of the book and stated expressly that a “judge shall not accept gift from a lawyer who might appear before him and accept gift provided the gift is not given in period of festivities and it is not of pecuniary nature.

Ahmed also identified, the first defendant, Rita Ofili Ajumogobia as customer to the accounts including corporate accounts where all the money in question, $894,400 and N56, 230,005 were deposited and affirmed that judicial officers were not allowed to maintain and operate corporate account in the course of service.

Attempt by Mr. Rotimi Oyedopo, EFCC counsel to make the witness interpret provisions of the handbook was objected by Wole Akoni (SAN) counsel to the 1st defendant (Rita Ofili Ajumogobia) and Ifedayo Adedipe (SAN), counsel to the 2nd defendant (Godwin Obla).

Adedipe told the court that a witness (a lawyer not a judicial officer) could not interpret the content of the document before the court. He said his client was standing trial and submitted, that the question the prosecution was asking was irrelevant under the Evidence Act.

“She has tendered the document, it is for the court to interpret the document”, he told the court.

Earlier, Akoni had told the court that it was trite law that evidence must be relevant to the charge and that what was being read was not relevant to the charge against his client.

The matter was adjourned to June 8, 2018 for continuation of trial.